As expected, Mexico provided an exciting start to the World Cup. It was a shame that they couldn’t convert their early dominance into a lead and eventually to points. South Africa came up with a dogged and disciplined performance and full marks to them for maintaining the proud home nations’ record of not losing the opening game.
Funnily enough, this game had an uncanny resemblance to many of our games from the last season. I half expected Aguirre to say “We were not sharp enough” in his post match interview! I think more than anything, Mexico missed a top quality central striker as Franco missed some good chances and didn’t contribute much.
I’m really hoping Vela will have a big tournament. He had a bright start to the game and got some good touches and runs into the box. The highlight of his day was, guess what, a delightful chip that set Franco free on goal only for the striker to be thwarted by a good save. He also scored a decent goal but, for once, bad goalkeeping saved the hosts as the keeper, who came and flapped, crossed Vela and that resulted in the off-side call! Kudos to the linesman for getting it right and shame on the commentators for criticizing a perfectly valid decision.
All in all I wouldn’t want to be too critical of the youngster as all Mexico players struggled to create an impact. They also lacked a central midfielder who could pull the strings and spread some accurate passes. Too many of their critical passes, especially to wide players, went long. Interestingly, United’s latest recruit, Javier Hernandez, didn’t really impress when he came on for Franco.
South Africa had some impressive players. Their front three in particular (Tshabalala, Mphela, Modise) were strong, fast and quite skilful. I’ll keep an eye out for them in the rest of the games and if they maintain their performances, there is a good chance offers from Europe will start flooding in.
In the second game of the day we had two players starting for France (leaving out Gallas). Domenech’s team were, as expected, rather lacklustre and lacked cohesion. Ribery, Gourcuff and Govou were big disappointments and I thought Diaby did a good job in the midfield, especially in the first half.
The lanky Frenchman rode a number of challenges and played some good passes. It’s a shame the attacking players never took full advantage of his work. He was a bit more subdued in the second half but recovered in the final minutes. Sadly, that was not good enough for France.
Sagna too had a good game. He put in four or five decent crosses into the box and both Anelka and Henry could have done better when Sagna found them in the box. I did feel that Sagna could have gone forward a bit more, perhaps this was a tactical decision by the manager to hold him back and Uruguay have a lethal strike partnership.
Overall, most of the French attacks originated from the left and the predictability made it easier for Uruguay. Again this was quite similar to some Arsenal games when we don’t get our attacking game flowing.
I think Sagna and Diaby will be crucial players for Domenech as his established stars look disinterested and disjointed.
There are no Arsenal players in action tomorrow but I’m really looking forward to the Argentina V Nigeria and the England V US games. I don’t think Maradona will make a great manager but it will be interesting to see how his team starts off. And since I’m based in the US, I’m also looking forward to a strong tactical display from Bob Bradley’s team against an overrated English side.
Enjoy the games wherever you watch them.
P.S. Did anyone else feel the atmosphere in both games was exhilarating and much better than the Premiership and Champions League games?